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Our world is pretty dependent on their microwaves! When I started questioning the safety of my microwave, I thought I’d never be able to do what that divine appliance could do for me without it. It came down to asking the same question for each different situation: What am I trying to do, and is there another way to do it? I’ve experimented and succeeded in many ways.
Here are my top 10 tips for seeking alternatives to microwave use:
- Plan ahead: thaw your meat and other frozen items in the refrigerator. I recommend giving things two full days to thaw. That way you won’t have any surprise frozen centers when you’re ready to cook. If you’re meal planning and making your life easier that way, this shouldn’t be a problem. (Alternative: for ground meats, you can just throw the whole frozen block in the pan and be willing to turn and peel off layers of cooked meat.) In a pinch, you can thaw meats packaged tightly in plastic bags in a sinkful of water – the safety pundits say to use cold water. I’ve cheated with hot water in the past as long as I’m cooking up the meat immediately. This is much quicker (and safer, with cold water) than just leaving things on the countertop to thaw.
- Use your teapot for boiling water. It is sometimes just as quick as the microwave and stays hot longer!
- Steam or roast your veggies.
- Use a pot to reheat: soups, stews, casseroles (that won’t be messed up by stirring), pasta with sauce, etc. Just add a little bit of water or broth (or cubes of broth) in the pot to reduce sticking.
- Use a toaster oven to reheat: store your leftovers in glass containers and pop them right into the toaster oven. You can even reheat multiple servings of different foods this way. I stick with 350 degrees, and it takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes to reheat foods, depending on how dense or deep the food is in the container. Cover items that might brown on top with a bit of tinfoil (reuse it every time!). Do use a hot pad on the table for single serving dishes right out of the oven.
Note: For anything that could possibly be heated in a pot or pan, the stove is immeasurably quicker than the toaster oven or large oven, so you want to make your choices based on time available. Next week I’ll share with you my tips for time management with lunch preparation.
- More toaster oven magic: put pizza, hamburgs, tacos…any single item leftovers on a tray in the toaster oven. Again, you can reheat different stuff at the same time. You can even do a little plop of beans and rice or a chunk of lasagna on the tray.
No toaster oven? You can do all that in a regular oven as well, of course! Maybe even leftovers for a family of eight…see the comments at this post. 🙂
- Reheat baby food/thaw food cubes: Use a glass dish and one cycle of “toast” (two or more for frozen cubes) will usually do it! This way you don’t have to set a timer, which is nice. Baby doesn’t need food very hot, anyway!
I also use the “toast” function for small things like muffins, pancakes, and thin tacos, as well as leftovers for my son who doesn’t like things too hot. It’s nice to be able to walk away and know I’m not going to let something burn if I forget to set don’t hear the timer.
- Pop your popcorn on the stovetop! I felt silly when my friend told me how yummy and easy this is. I had never considered that it was possible! Just melt some fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil) in a pot and put one kernel in. When it pops, add more kernels (up to a ½ cup) in a single layer and put the lid on. If you have a glass lid and kids to watch the action, this is a really fun activity! You can tell when it’s done just like in the mic: when the popping noise gets a few seconds apart, pull the pot off the heat quickly. Pour popcorn into a bowl, and you can use the same pot to melt some butter to drizzle on top if you’d like. Mmmmm…
Another option is to buy a popper; I just found one at a garage sale for a buck, and it works great! It’s 30 years old, which is a little scary, and it shot a few kernels across the room, but who doesn’t like a little daring and adventure in the kitchen?
- Melt butter, cheese or chocolate for recipes: Either in a pan with lots of stirring, or even better, in a small pot that is nestled in a larger pot filled with water. I call this the poor man’s double boiler, and it’s great because it will prevent your chocolate or cheese from burning. (The large pot does NOT count as a dirty dish; just dump the water and air dry!)
- Another double boiler fake-out: if you have leftover soup or sauce frozen in a glass jar (I like using spaghetti sauce jars – they’re free and just the right amount for my little family of 3 ½ eaters), you can put it in a pot of water and heat it up until you can pour out the soup into the pot (after you empty the water, of course!).
If you can utilize even one of these tips to avoid the microwave, go over to this post and sign up for “Mind the Microwave in May”! It’s fun to count how many minutes you save and enter them in the sidebar widget. Why avoid the microwave? Read one reason here. Learn how Mind the Microwave started here.
Come back later this week for Surprising Benefits of Avoiding the Microwave!
Read more Kitchen Tips at Tammy’s Recipes.
Check out another blogger’s Reheat-Without-Microwaving Tips here.
and I’ll be right over!